On this date 109 years ago, the Titanic sank with 3 Nebraskans on board

Of the three men, one was a prominent Nebraskan, the other two were soon-to-be Nebraskans.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Even though it’s been more than a century since the Titanic sank on its way to New York, the story manages to be one of the most captivating historic events of all time.

The theories for why this may be are legion, but one factor that surely plays a role is the humanity of the story. Although most of the passengers and crew would not survive, there were many who did, and their stories each bring the events to life.

A way to bring the story to life for Nebraskans may be the fact that of the 2,200 people aboard the Titanic, at least three have ties to Nebraska. Of those three, only one was already a Nebraskan. The other two were on their way.

You may recognize Emil Brandeis’s name from the now-defunct Omaha-based department store chain. If you’ve visited Omaha’s downtown, you can still see the building he had put up with his family’s name above the door.

Brandeis sailed first class, delaying his trip back home to America specifically so he could sail on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. He would spend his final night, April 14th, going into the 15th, helping to find a lifeboat for the wife of a friend.

History Nebraska editor David Bristow says that woman, a Mrs. Harris, got one last look at her husband and Emil Brandeis: “She remembered being lowered into the water, and her husband and Mr. Brandeis standing on deck, waving to her. The idea was, ‘We’ll see you soon.’ Whether they believed that or not is another matter.”

Brandeis did not survive the sinking. His body was later recovered. While he did not survive, some of his personal effects live on, most notably his pocket watch.

Two future Nebraskans would live through the sinking. Victor Halva was one. He first came aware of Nebraska when Buffalo Bill toured Europe, and Halva says he decided to come to the place where he heard “silver dollars grow on trees”.

Halva would be one of the Titanic’s stowaways. He was picked up by a lifeboat on the night of the sinking, and would eventually settle in O’Neill.

Carl Johnson bought his ticket, although it was for third class. He was unable to find a lifeboat, and found himself in the water as the ship went down.

“As he put it”, said Bristow, “‘Then started a tough fight in the water; making some people release their hold so that others could be saved. It worked.'”

Bristow explains that Johnson’s account would vary a bit over the years, but the broad strokes would remain the same as he grew older in Wahoo.

The irony of the situation for both Halva and Johnson is that they left their homes to avoid military service. Both would later serve America in WWI. Both men survived the war, and spent the rest of their lives in Nebraska.


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